Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of SANDAG / Photo by Megan Wood

The San Diego Association of Governments doesn’t have enough money to build all the things it promised voters years ago. It overstated its revenue and underestimated costs — all of which has created a massive gap in the budget.

Andrew Keatts reports the region’s primary planning agency is now in the process of drafting a new plan for moving people around the region more efficiently, while obeying state climate-change edicts. But in the meantime, an outside auditor is encouraging the agency to be clear about which projects it intends to build and which it doesn’t.

One elected official on SANDAG’s board called the request a “coming to Jesus” moment.

For the sake of accountability, the auditor noted that SANDAG doesn’t have an especially clear way of communicating how it’s handling the deficit. The agency, however, wants to commit itself to big-picture outcomes under a new vision, one that might change as technology and lifestyles change as well.

The $9.8 billion shortfall will likely hurt freeway projects, including improvements to I-5 in the South Bay, I-805 and I-8. Instead, the agency’s new leaders are looking to build hundreds of miles of new, fast rail lines and address congestion with managed lanes and tolls similar to the system on I-15 today. 

Padres’ Game Brings Sign of Life

Bars downtown had people. The ballpark had people. The Padres won, the people cheered.

It was all very unusual. Opening Day of the 2021 baseball season seemed to mark more than just the start of the sport again but the beginning of a grand reopening. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher attended the game and also said that the data appeared to point to the county reopening even more in coming days. We are soon headed to the Orange Tier. That new status would allow restaurants with bars to open up to half capacity indoors and the Padres could have a third of their stadium full. Just under 9,000 people attended Thursday and about 5,000 more can go if we move into the Orange Tier.

In mid-April, many schools across the region will be reopening for in-person learning.

Fletcher said the county would move into the Orange Tier once the state has distributed 4 million vaccines in areas of high poverty or that have inadequate access to health care. They are at about 3.4 million.

“We are headed in the right direction because our case numbers continue to be very stable,” he said. The case rates throughout California are on the right track.

Elsewhere though: Cases are not going down in the United States, though. Michigan and areas in northeastern states are seeing increases. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s worried.

In Other News

  • The Los Angeles Times reports that the sister of Chargers controlling owner Dean Spanos has filed a petition in court to force a sale. She argues that mounting debt has imperiled the family’s finances and the only solution is to put the NFL franchise on the market. She also offered the intriguing detail that Dean Spanos had promised the family he would hire an investment bank to explore a sale of the team in 2024.
  • Haitian asylum-seekers say they face discrimination in Tijuana’s migrant camp. (KPBS)
  • After Wednesday’s CalMatters report revealed 2,324 people incarcerated in San Diego County jails have yet to be sentenced, KPBS dug into the local circumstances that have caused people to remain in jail for so long without sentencing.
  • Some La Jolla residents have received cease-and-desist letters from electric scooter company Bird for using a scooter removal service called Scoot Scoop. (La Jolla Light) 
  • A free book-sharing program through the county is helping neighbors open “little libraries” in low-income communities. (Union-Tribune) 
  • And finally, the World Trade Center San Diego released a new report about trade and foreign investment in partnership with UCSD, Mayor Todd Gloria and others. It includes this interesting little tidbit: “In San Diego, one in four firms is engaged in developing or deploying AI, which will continue to drive growth for occupations requiring digital skills.” 

The Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishan and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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